National Academy of Songwriters
Videocassette, $29.95

Reviewed by Paul Moffett

The widespread availability of home video players has caused the proliferation of "How-To" videos. Most music stores now have racks devoted to today's musical stars showing budding young players how to play the hottest licks. These videos are clearly useful. How else can one learn to play like Van Halen and Stanley Jordan?

So naturally it was only a matter of time before the video revolution reached the next level of music business instruction: after learning all those hot licks, how do you get a record deal?

Ritch Esra and the National Academy of Songwriters have attempted to answer that question with this tape. The video is a series of answers from individuals in the music business to questions about getting ahead in the field. The personalities interviewed include record company executives, independent producers, managers, and famous artists such as Phil Collins, Kris Kristofferson, Barry White, Jodie Watley, Mark Knopfler, Janis Ian and many others. A most interesting section has independent producer Jeff "Skunk" Baxter giving out his mailing address for aspiring artists to send him tapes.

Faced with the problem of having a video full of "talking heads," the producers decided to edit the questions and answers into short bites and group them loosely around the job descriptions that are most important in the business. Thus, there are record company artists & repertoire people, independent label executives, managers, producers, and artists answering questions, often the same questions. Since this video essentially functions as a "Career Day," this is a very useful approach. It is also cheaper than going to see even a couple of these people. They tell you as much in the video as they would if you caught up with them in person.

The video is fairly short, with a running time of 67 minutes, so even those with short attention spans can last all the way through, provided they have some interest in the business.

It would not actually be possible to arrange a record deal with the knowledge acquired from this video, but all the information contained in it is necessary to reach that goal and all of it is useful to the budding recording artist. That alone makes it well worth it's twenty-nine ninety-five price.

If you have a child eager to be a rock 'n' roll star, buy this tape for him or her. Maybe it'll help him/her to change his/her mind. If you are an artist looking for a career, the same applies to you. Watch this video and pay attention.